In the latest of our series of mini interviews with friends of The Ralph Site we heard from Tricia Johnson, who has given us some wise words of advice for anyone experiencing the loss of a much-loved companion.
1. Do you currently share your home with any pets? If so, please tell us about them.
I currently have two much-loved dogs, both rescues – Chico (who is eleven years old) and Maggie, who is now three. Chico wandered into a neighbour’s property in Spain as a small puppy, and when they asked me to look after him while they visited family in the UK in 2006, I’m afraid I fell in love with him and ‘stole’ him from them! I returned from Spain in 2011 and Chico was one of five dogs I brought back with me.
Maggie came into my life after the sudden and unexpected loss of another of my Spanish rescues Sussie, and stole my broken heart just from seeing her in a video. She had been dumped on waste ground in Cyprus as a puppy, and was in imminent danger of being either poisoned by local café owners or killed by a large feral pack of dogs who would not accept her.
I also have a rescue cat, Baggy, now about 16, who went out to Spain with me in 2004 and came back with me in 2011! She is a typically aloof feline, who thinks she rules the roost!
I firmly believe that getting another dog or cat soon after losing one should not be felt to be treachery – they can never replace one we have lost. Instead they find another new place in our heart.
2.What was the name of your first pet?
My very first pet was a shaggy mongrel called Pickles, who came to me when I was about six. I’ve had dogs (and the occasional cat) ever since; plus several horses, until about ten years ago.
3.Why did you choose the name?
I have to say that I didn’t – my parents named her!
4.Cats, dogs, or another species? Can you choose?! And why?
Although I’ve been passionate about horses all my life (despite my parents being completely non-horsey and having very little money), I think as ‘pets’ it would have to be dogs. Their unconditional love and trust outdo anything else.
5.What is your favourite memory of an animal who has shared your life?
A difficult one, but I think that would have to be of yet another scruffy mongrel, Shrimp. I remember him playing the ‘swimming pool game’ with visitors when I lived in Spain. He would run round the top of the raised pool barking, and as he reached one of the kids, they would jump in. He’d run round to the next one and they’d do the same. As soon as he moved on, the first child would get out again and sit waiting for him! Shrimp would keep this up for hours, but the best thing was, he actually invented the game!
6.Which three words would you choose to describe him?
Scruffy, disobedient and an escape artist! (But of course, he was utterly adorable!)
7.What is your favourite fictional animal and why?
Black Beauty – the novel was just so insightful. Even now though I can’t bear to watch the film!
8.If you could be any animal, which one would you choose and why?
I’d definitely be my own dog – that way I’d never want for love and attention!
9.What advice would you give to someone who is grieving for a much-loved pet?
The most important thing is to take your time – there aren’t any rules for the terrible grief you are feeling. Try to do and feel just what you think is right, not what someone tells you. If you feel you could open your heart to another pet then do so, don’t let anyone tell you it’s ‘too soon.’ If you want to cry, then cry. If you can remember happy times instead, then that’s OK too – this is how you will gradually heal.
10.When and how did you come across The Ralph Site? What do you think is the most important role of The Ralph Site community?
I think it was when I lost the first of my Spanish rescues, Lady. She was only about five years old and I was unable to save her from a horrible illness; the guilt weighed almost as heavily as the grief. Without a partner or close family member to give me support, I found people on The Ralph Site were the most tremendous comfort. I have since become true friends with a few people I interacted with on the site back then, and I think that for people who don’t perhaps have supportive friends or family around when they lose a much-loved pet, our community is an absolute godsend.
We’ll be featuring regular mini-interviews with friends of The Ralph Site in future; so do keep an eye out every first and third week of each month!
Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support